The effort it takes to pull air into my lungs and my racing heart pushes me to my limits. I am in a push up position. I transition of my body weight to my arms as I crunch one leg to my chest while the other leg extends straight into the air behind me. My muscles ache from fatigue. I am uncomfortable. I begin the sequence of questions, “Why are you doing this?” “This is an option?” “There are so many other things you could be doing that are more comfortable.” “If you stop, you will be a failure.” “Look at all those other people, they aren’t stopping.”
At this point the trainer says, “Don’t tap out. Take a beat if you need but don’t quit.”
Those are the words I need to hear. “Take a beat if you need but don’t quit.” That phrase immediately reminds me that this is my choice. I can take a moment to gather myself, regain control of my breath, then jump back in where I left off. The group and music will continue but this is not a competition. I will not be a failure.
I allow my knees to hit the floor to rest. My youngest daughter is dressing her doll for the day. “Mommy, can you help me put her shirt on?”
I am torn. I think to myself, “The trainer said take a beat. Not dress a doll.” But my daughter is asking me into her life. At this moment she sees that I am allowing time to rest. And in her mind, why not dress a baby while I rest. I raise up from a table top position to being on my knees upright. Dressing the doll is the distraction I need to not only regain my breath but to take control of my thinking. My body needs a moment to recover. My mind needs a moment to remember that I exercise for my health and not to win a competition.
I remember the days when stopping was failure. And failing was not an option. I would push full force not because I enjoyed the challenge, but because quietly in my mind I was berating myself for not keeping up. I am a secret competitor. I don’t want to be. I want to be cool, calm, collected, in it for the fun. My desire is to be easy-going. But my nature is to win no matter the cost.
These two sides are constantly fighting against each other. A civil war of sorts. I am always trying to figure out how to manage the two without completely running myself in the ground and hurting people along the way. Moment to moment, my thoughts require me to be intentional. Asking questions to myself: “Why is this important?” “Who are you showing love to?” “What is the goal here?” “What life are you trying to live?”
Questioning my thoughts gives the interruption I need to gain control in the battle that has started in my mind. But there are times that the mental interruption is not enough. A physical interruption is needed. Studies have proven connections between your mind and body. Performing tasks that are considered lower thinking tasks have shown to reduce stress. I often see these as interruptions but actually these tasks prove to be quite helpful, like dressing a doll or kissing a boo-boo. If an interruption does not present itself, performing a task like doing the dishes or going on a walk will help me quiet those thoughts that will not stop. Whatever it takes because I will not be a bully to myself.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Life is not a competition. We are not against one another for the “W.” When winning is the goal, I am not loving well. I don’t want to be your competitor. We have very different lives and stories that will reach people in love in different ways. A few years ago I read Fierce Faith by Alli Worthington. In the book she gave a four item check list that I continue to use to help me remember this is not a competition and I am not a failure. Show Up, Be Real, Love Others, Don’t Quit. As my two sides are taunting each other I can pull these four phrases to my mind to stop the fight before it begins. This requires being intentional. What I have found is that being intentional is my responsibility and in my intentionality I find freedom. And on days when I decide that being intentional can wait, I will welcome the interruptions in the form of questions or my regular mom life.